What’s Wrong With Full Body Scans?

Lots of stories similar to the one below from Bloomberg News are appearing in the media. I’ll be on a long distance flight tomorrow and if the TSA screeners at JFK want to see a full body scan of me I’ll have no problem with it in terms of their being able to see a virtually naked image, although if there are health issues from the scan (are there?) then I won’t be so happy.

Is it just me, or are the “invasion of privacy” knee-jerk reactions from the ACLU and others faintly ridiculous? Not that I think these scans are necessarily the answer to airline security…

A suspected terrorist’s attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner may override privacy concerns and intensify a push for full-body scanning equipment at airports.

U.S. officials charged a 23-year-old Nigerian man with trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 as it prepared to land in Detroit on Christmas Day. President Barack Obama said yesterday he ordered a thorough review of the episode and called for new scrutiny of screening policies and technologies.

Metal detectors currently used to screen passengers wouldn’t have found the explosive allegedly carried aboard by the suspect, said former Federal Aviation Administration security chief Billie Vincent. Only more sophisticated devices such as low-level X-rays and millimeter-wave technology would work, Vincent said.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, called for more widespread use of the full-body scanners after the aborted attack. “We were very lucky this time but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened,” Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement yesterday…

[continues at Bloomberg News]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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30 Comments on "What’s Wrong With Full Body Scans?"

  1. emperorreagan | Dec 29, 2009 at 11:33 am |

    My experience with the TSA is that their employees aren't particularly competent. My family & friends tend to agree with that assessment based on their own experiences. And I recall a bunch of articles since 9-11 about people being able to smuggle a variety of banned items on to plans with relative ease.

    I don't think that throwing more technology at the problem is really going to help if the people interfacing with the public now aren't doing an adequate job.

    I also think that the fundamental factors which protect us from suicide bombers/terrorists/whatever on airlines are that such attacks are expensive, require detailed planning, and really require someone relatively intelligent to pull them off. Security protects us from the idiots. An intelligent, dedicated attack would easily circumvent the current safeguards.

    I firmly believe that any additional investment in security needs to go towards the ports & cargo side of the US transportation system, not on stupid full body scanners which will do little more than make the public feel good.

  2. Is it just me, or are the “invasion of privacy” knee-jerk reactions from the ACLU and others faintly ridiculous?

    Its just you, apparently. I don't see a thing ridiculous about stopping this intrusion.

    • Great, thanks, I expected some disagreement, but can you explain why this is more intrusive than someone checking you out at the beach (another largely voluntary activity)? I can take the train instead of flying, and keep my clothes on at the beach if I want to, but I really could care less if a TSA screener sees an image of me virtually stripped of clothes, or someone with a harder body than mine smirks when I take off my shirt at the beach. And yes, they can both sneak a photo onto the internet I suppose.

      I do see that people with jobs that require air travel are in a different situation. It still doesn't bother me a great deal, but I'd be interested to hear you articulate exactly why you don't want anyone to see that image of your body sans clothing. I certainly respect that some people have different issues about strangers seeing their bodies.

      If the alternative was a full body search, requiring an extra hour of check-in time, would that be better? And if not what should be the search procedures?

      • Thats kind of apples to oranges, isn't it?

        At the beach, you intentionally take your clothes off. Of course you expect someone to look at you there. I have never done so at the airport.

        And, at the beach (I used to enjoy many years ago), I would have never taken off ALL my clothes (which is, essentially what is going on in these scanners).

        Besides, the entire storyline of this deal is suspect (with witnesses saying this man was ushered on by some unknown guy and it was clear he had no passport… he is also on the Terrorist Watch list, yet he was still ushered on). The whole thing stinks to high heaven and gives them a reason to not only look at your genitals, but no telling what else infringements are in store to our liberties.

        There is also the health risks that any Xray scanning device can cause.

        BTW: air travel ALREADY sucks to high heaven.

        As to why I don't want other people looking at my nude body UNLESS I give them permission to do so is simply the way I was raised, I suppose. To each his own.

    • sh3rb3rts | Dec 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm |

      They keep forgetting about Lockerbie. Wasn't the luggage area the site of a bomb?
      Also, why do the innocent made to go through this, and they let people on various watch lists on the plane anyway?
      First things first. Let's keep the people on the watch list off the planes, then check the luggage, then scan us.

  3. we got a great tweet from @bodyspacesoc :

    @disinfo What’s Wrong With Full Body Scans? http://bit.ly/76QUOU << just a radiowave-enhanced way of mooning the police, right?

    • Yeah? Try hanging your junk out at the cops and see what happens in real life. However, somehow, it is acceptable that TSA (low-wage, low skill) can stare at your junk without a gripe?

      • Humor BuelahMan. Well anyway if I feel like I've had my privacy unduly invaded at JFK later today I'll be sure to revise the post. Can't say I'm looking forward to those long lines waiting for TSA employees to “stare at my junk” (which they are welcome to do, for all the good it will do them or me).

  4. GoodDoktorBad | Dec 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm |

    Assuming you are suspect enough to even be put into one of these machines, the question would be: is it harmful? My guess would be its no more harmful than a dental X-ray or the exposure we have to microwave radiation from cell phones, microwave ovens etc.
    If you're not carring a bomb or other bad things, this machine will prove it “safely”, then you can go get on your plane. Yes, its an inconvenience, but its still better than being blown “sky-high”.

  5. this site used to be awesome. what happened?

    • GoodDoktorBad | Jan 2, 2010 at 5:48 pm |

      People posting irrelevent and cryptic comments like yours I would guess. Try contributing some of your personal brilliance…

  6. nsamarkus | Dec 30, 2009 at 12:52 am |

    I can't believe that the user base of disinfo has shriveled up to a bunch of sheep following every DHS knee jerk reaction and trading in their personal freedoms and privacy for the illusion of safety.
    Anybody working in the field knows that the TSA is a joke, that you can always find a way to blow something up or attack in a different way shape or form. The only security there is on an airplane is that anybody that will try anything funny will be pummeled to death by the passengers. And this is the only security in the sky that works.
    But yes, for you short sighted yea-sayers, that let the TSA, DHS and any other misguided collection of morons treat you like cattle, you deserve it.
    It makes me weep to see what this country has become and how easy all of you just take the abuse of power.
    And not just take it, but take it with pleasure.
    If you people don't wake up, I see dark times ahead. Very dark times.

    • GoodDoktorBad | Dec 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm |

      I'm no fan of the DHS in particular, but airport screening (by who-ever) has been going on in some fashion for a long time, and at risk of sounding like a “shriveled up sheep”, can you really not agree that at least some level of screening is a good idea? Perhaps we should all be able to carry guns on the plane? That would be like the mutually assured destruction (MAD) theory of nuclear weapons in a flying box. Wheeeee!
      And as dumb as people can be, cops in general are only as bad as the laws they enforce, or perhaps in enough cases to mention, a bit worse. Still there just people, generally blind and dumb as the next person. The scary part is that they carry guns. We know what those are for…

      • @GoodDoktoerBad: Don't get me wrong, here. Yes, airport screening is absolutely necessary, but creating the amount of jobs that they did for TSA and laying off airport contracted security did not make screening any better. Actually, from my experience, it made it worse. During the time lighters weren't allowed on planes I accidentally dragged three of them through security in my backpack. They were not found. Also, I have a utility key on my keychain and forgot to take that off during one of my trips this year. Now mind you, this key has a knife on it and is pictures specifically on the TSA training manual. Both airports did not catch it. What I am saying with my whole comment was that TSA did not make anything any safer, cost us a nice bundle in the form of a hidden economic stimulus package, and is also taking our personal freedoms away as a side product.
        There needs to be change in a matter that does:
        1) provide more security
        2) does not punish the innocent traveler, which by the way, id you actual security on the plane.
        The passengers are what stops in the air attacks.

        When was the last time you hear of TSA stopping someone with an explosive strapped to them? You don't.
        When do you hear about passengers overpowering someone trying to do anything crazy on a plane? All the time.

        I rest my case.

        • GoodDoktorBad | Dec 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm |

          I hear you man, and I generally concur. Thanks for the clarification…

  7. Whatwentwrongwithdisinfo | Dec 30, 2009 at 8:37 am |

    What is going on with this site? It used to have plenty of varied and interesting stories. These days however it is full of pro government, pro Obama, pro what the hell are people moaning about. The contributors to this site have lost it and they are loosing the readership too.

  8. Scootledude | Dec 30, 2009 at 11:58 am |

    If the idea is to wean us on body-scanning, why not just begin with those on some kind of list? Which brings to mind the real places we need help: intelligence sharing.

    See nothing objectionable or “abusive” about the procedure, especially if I can keep half my clothes on instead of passing them through the scanner. Might decrease the time investment at check-in, as well.

    And if they could have quick look around my prostate, that'd be swell, too.

  9. Have you seen the images these things produce? I actually laughed out loud at all the hoopla over privacy. Where do I send my $10 contribution toward the enrollment of the ACLU board in the first grade of their choice?

    • the problem is if you give the government an inch they try and take 50 miles,
      how many times did we hear about government agents conducting illegal searches and seizures
      after 9-11 because they thought nobody would fight back.
      everything the government should be fought if only to send a message to the thugs in the police agencies that we wont stand by when they over step their power

  10. happynewyear | Dec 30, 2009 at 11:02 pm |

    There is 0% chance of my white middle aged mother being a terrorist. Why should she be screened as a criminal? We all know who the bombers are. They are male Muslim foreigners. Screen them. It doesn't even make any sense from a security perspective to think that everyone has an equally good chance of being a terrorist. Better yet, require that everyone be positively identified before they get on a flight using an enhanced ID system. Want to travel anonymously? Take the bus.

  11. Depends on what you value more, your privacy or your life!
    Russian Girls

  12. I don't see a problem with the full body scans as long as Muslims are the ones that are getting scanned, they appear to be the only ones perpetrating attacks on our planes anyway.

    • how do you tell who's a muslim, they dont all look like a character from 24, there are white muslims , black muslims, chinese muslims, philippino muslims……..

      • Tralphaz | Jan 3, 2010 at 4:35 am |

        So far those who have tried and or succeeded in bringing our planes down could have been identified with our currently illegal racial profiling.

        • After reports, it is a stretch to think any Muslim did this (any of it) on their own without some Americans (or some entity) helping. Name the American Muslims who have been a part of any of it and I will show you a patsy. This latest asshole bomber is a patsy. Plain as day. The show bomber… patsy.

          Suggesting that we profile Muslims only doesn't catch the real criminals and just covers up for them.

  13. DontEvenWant2Travel | Jan 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    There was a time when I used to love air travel but now in the name of safety and what not it has become a nightmare. They treat us like criminals, open our luggage, break stuff, charge more money and airport taxes in the name of my safety and convenience. These scanners are going to take away even the little bit of dignity that was left in air travel and still someone somewhere will manage to breach the safety because of all the incompetent jerks that implement these rules. Why do I have to appear naked in front of some security officer just to travel…. what would be next by the way… cavity search?

  14. Mark Asian | Jan 5, 2010 at 3:23 am |

    Thanks for letting me see your naked wife,daughter,sister and mother,Mexican.

    My Willie is very short,said the doctor to my mother. Scouting for long ones,I am going to work my way up the facade of the TSA ladder in a homeland,where I have no home and squeegee a few off.

  15. Mark Asian | Jan 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    Thanks for letting me see your naked wife,daughter,sister and mother,Mexican.

    My Willie is very short,said the doctor to my mother. Scouting for long ones,I am going to work my way up the facade of the TSA ladder in a homeland,where I have no home and squeegee a few off.

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